He abandoned the didactic tone, and returned to the material matter in hand. Mr. Grimm passed him the despatch and he sat down again.
“‘Will soon sign compact in Washington,’” he read musingly. “Now I don’t know that the signing of that compact can be prevented, but the signing of it on United States soil can be prevented. You will see to that, Mr. Grimm.”
“Very well,” the young man agreed carelessly. The magnitude of such a task made, apparently, not the slightest impression on him. He languidly drew on his gloves.
“And meanwhile I shall take steps to ascertain the attitude of Russian and Japanese representatives in this city.”
Mr. Grimm nodded.
“And now, for Prince Benedetto d’Abruzzi,” Mr. Campbell went on slowly. “Officially he is not in Washington, nor the United States, for that matter. Naturally, on such a mission, he would not come as a publicly accredited agent, therefore, I imagine, he is to be sought under another name.”
“Of course,” Mr. Grimm acquiesced.
“And he would avoid the big hotels.”
Mr. Campbell permitted his guileless blue eyes to linger inquiringly upon those of the young man for half a minute. He caught himself wondering, sometimes, at the perfection of the deliberate indifference with which Mr. Grimm masked his emotions. In his admiration of this quality he quite overlooked the remarkable mask of benevolence behind which he himself hid.
“And the name, D’Abruzzi,” he remarked, after a time. “What does it mean to you, Mr. Grimm?”
“It means that I am to deal with a prince of the royal blood of Italy,” was the unhesitating response. Mr. Grimm picked up the Almanac de Gotha and glanced at the open page. “Of course, the first thing to do is to find him; the rest will be simple enough.” He perused the page carelessly. “I will begin work at once.”
THE LANGUAGE OF THE FAN
Mr. Grimm was chatting idly with Senorita Rodriguez, daughter of the minister from Venezuela, the while he permitted his listless eyes to wander aimlessly about the spacious ball-room of the German embassy, ablaze with festooned lights, and brilliant with a multi-colored chaos of uniforms. Gleaming pearl-white, translucent in the mass, were the bare shoulders of women; and from far off came the plaintive whine of an orchestra, a pulsing sense rather than a living sound, of music, pointed here and there by the staccato cry of a flute. A zephyr, perfumed with the clean, fresh odor of lilacs, stirred the draperies of the archway which led into the conservatory and rustled the bending branches of palms and ferns.
For a scant instant Mr. Grimm’s eyes rested on a young woman who sat a dozen feet away, talking, in playful animation, with an undersecretary of the British embassy—a young woman severely gowned in some glistening stuff which fell away sheerly from her splendid bare shoulders. She glanced up, as if in acknowledgment of his look, and her eyes met his. Frank, blue-gray eyes they were, stirred to their depths now by amusement. She smiled at Senorita Rodriguez, in token of recognition.